Mike Strange: Reinforcements should bolster Vols' offense

Mike Strange
University of Tennessee defensive back Byron Moore, right, tries to stop a run by Rajion Neal during the Orange and White game at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, April 20, 2013. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

University of Tennessee defensive back Byron Moore, right, tries to stop a run by Rajion Neal during the Orange and White game at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, April 20, 2013. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

What round will Tyler Bray be drafted in?

See the results »

View previous polls »

Two years ago during Tennessee’s spring football game, I took advantage of sideline access to ask a coach how closely what was going on resembled a real game.

His curt reply: “This is nothing like a real game.’’

And neither was the one played Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

Keep that in mind when judging what you saw in coach Butch Jones’ first Orange and White Game. Or, more importantly, in judging what you didn’t see.

What you saw was one offensive touchdown. What you didn’t see were a bunch of playmakers.

The conclusion would be that Tennessee in 2013 will be a mere shadow of the offense that scored 53 touchdowns and averaged 476 yards a game last fall. The skill players who produced the bulk of those numbers are awaiting the NFL draft this week.

Offensive struggles might very well turn out to be the story of the 2013 season. Just don’t put your season tickets on eBay because Saturday didn’t fast-track any Vols onto the Heisman Trophy checklist.

Spring games, after all, are notorious for providing false leads.

Two years ago, Tyler Bray was 5-of-30 passing on a cold April day. Matt Simms outplayed him.

The first snap of the 2008 spring game produced a 74-yard TD pass from Jonathan Crompton to Denarius Moore. Yeah, that new Dave Clawson offense was going to be a track meet.

In 2004, quarterback hopeful C.J. Leak had a solid spring game and said afterward, “When the lights come on, players make plays.’’

When the lights came on in September, it would be freshmen quarterbacks Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer making plays.

And it could be incoming freshmen quarterbacks Joshua Dobbs or Riley Ferguson making plays when the lights come on to start the 2013 season. But I wouldn’t write off either Justin Worley or Nathan Peterman based on Saturday.

There will be at least six wide receivers and four tight ends available who did not play in the spring game. MarQuez North (signee), Jason Croom (injury) and Brendan Downs (injury) might be starters.

Tailback Marlin Lane could be reinstated to compete with Rajion Neal and up-and-comer Alden Hill in the running game. If not, signee Jabo Lee becomes significant.

The offensive line operated Saturday without Tiny Richardson, potentially one of the top tackles in the nation.

Now the long wait has begun. All but the most biased orange-bleeders would concede there are legitimate concerns about this offense.

But remember, what you saw Saturday wasn’t necessarily what you get in the fall.

It was nothing like a real game.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 33

jack4444 writes:

The offensive line is the key. They put their minds to run blocking and DeAnthonie Summerhill will be successful.

johnlg00 writes:

Oh well! Gotta hope the defense has made a LOT of progress over last year's. We pretty much had to know that the offense might be a year away. Still, the number of possible contributors who weren't available last Saturday and those who aren't on campus yet might give the offense a little boost. Just gotta hope further that the team won't shoot itself in the foot as often as it has in some past years and that the special teams might help more than they hurt. We've all gotta just be patient, bad as some of us oldsters might hate it!

cheetah-vol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Oh well! Gotta hope the defense has made a LOT of progress over last year's. We pretty much had to know that the offense might be a year away. Still, the number of possible contributors who weren't available last Saturday and those who aren't on campus yet might give the offense a little boost. Just gotta hope further that the team won't shoot itself in the foot as often as it has in some past years and that the special teams might help more than they hurt. We've all gotta just be patient, bad as some of us oldsters might hate it!

I went to the game, and I thought the determined play by the defense was key. I went more out of curiosity than expectations. A lot of the defensive players were on that worse defense on VOL history last year. I think they wanted to show they can play better, especially since they're being coached. That said, I was kinda glad to see the offense struggle a bit. Maybe this will give them the same determination come August. But, absences from personnel aside, we didn't see all of the schemes, especially with the Tight End. And, as a fellow oldster, I can be patient as long as they just keep getting better as the season progresses instead of watching them do the same thing week after week with no success or improvement at all. The positive atmosphere and watching the coaches work with the players on Saturday is helping me to feel my patience will payoff.

OrangePride writes:

Another great article by MS. He is clearly the best sports writer on the KNS staff. And he is right, what you see is NOT what you get when it comes to spring games. BUT, it does give all us football junkies a little something to jaw about over the summer. This offense will be a LOT better come opening day. Passing is highly dependent on timing, route running, and pass blocking. It won't be like last year with big over the top plays, but I think it will be well managed and we will play for high percentages. As for the D, I saw some very positive energy and some athleticism on that D line. No matter what they do, they will be way better than last year. No...it wasn't fantasyland on Saturday, but for a junkie like me, seeing that stadium full of orange was just what the doctor ordered! GO VOLS!!

DC82_Vol writes:

I want to see improvement each week. I was sick and tired of hearing the same excuses last year. Uh, we gotta communicate better. We had some BAD coaching last year. Sunseri was in over his head. All of Dooley's assistant coaches left for a reason.

I like where we are headed. Just keep getting better. Recruiting has already improved over Dooley. Which I thought was going to be one of Dooley's strenghts.

pingkr62 writes:

Patience on our part will be a requirement. We probably won't see any real improvement until mid-season, but we WILL see improvement. I think the turning point will be the Georgia game. I doubt U.T. will win, but That will be THE game. Afterward, I predict wins over S.Carolina, Missou, Auburn, Vandy and Kentucky. Of course U.T. can't withstand a high number of injuries. 2014 is when U.T. arrives. G.B.O.!!!

BluezVol writes:

The last time incoming freshmen saw a relevant UT football team they were high school freshmen. They had better turn something around this season else we join the "lower half club" and return UT to its position in the 1970s. I think they can, but we have to get a few breaks along the way - over-achieving true freshmen, few injuries, leadership from upper classmen, key half-time adjustments and coaching/play calling that leverages our strengths and tries to avoid our weaknesses.

orangehippi writes:

in response to DC82_Vol:

I want to see improvement each week. I was sick and tired of hearing the same excuses last year. Uh, we gotta communicate better. We had some BAD coaching last year. Sunseri was in over his head. All of Dooley's assistant coaches left for a reason.

I like where we are headed. Just keep getting better. Recruiting has already improved over Dooley. Which I thought was going to be one of Dooley's strenghts.

I to like where we are headed, and remember,dooleys coaches left him and cbj coaches followed him not all but most,should tell you something about coach.

givehim6 writes:

I hope UT's D plays with a chip on there sholder all season.

DiegoVol writes:

I'm not a big fan of this read option Offense they are installing. I like the Pistol style spread if it has to be anything besides good ol Power I and 3 wide

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to BluezVol:

The last time incoming freshmen saw a relevant UT football team they were high school freshmen. They had better turn something around this season else we join the "lower half club" and return UT to its position in the 1970s. I think they can, but we have to get a few breaks along the way - over-achieving true freshmen, few injuries, leadership from upper classmen, key half-time adjustments and coaching/play calling that leverages our strengths and tries to avoid our weaknesses.

Not sure what you mean by UT's position in the 1970s, but right now, I would definitely take that. Only three current SEC teams won more games that decade, and since one of them (Arkansas) wasn't in the conference then, I guess UT must've been the third-best team in the conference, and LSU had only one more win and one less loss than we did. We were also tied for 18th in the country in total wins in the 1970s. Yeah. Right now I would definitely take that.

bnakk#240693 writes:

One look at the picture will explain the defensive improvement. Tackling by the balls is always an effective way to bring the runner down! (pun intended)

EDDIE_2 writes:

If one has a running game and decent defense,one can get by.If passing comes around,all that much better.GO VOLS

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

Will it be 9 or 10 in a row this year, I've lost count?

usafvol writes:

If you're talking about months since you've had a job it's probably 10..

ButchBall writes:

I liked what I saw. There were enough flashes of explosive and physical type plays from the d-line to see a significant difference from last year. On offense, Alden Hill showed ability to consistently pick up the tough 3-4 yards. We really haven't had that type of back for a while. That should help us convert some 3rd downs down the road.

62vol writes:

This is one of the very best articles ever published on this site.

frblalack writes:

Another good article Mike! Can't wait for Sept.!

All Vols - Big Orange !!!

Lizardgrad89 writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

Will it be 9 or 10 in a row this year, I've lost count?

Nine.

But that doesn't matter anymore. UT fans realize they aren't going to beat Florida, Oregon, USC or Bama, but if they can sneak one out against Georgia, beat Mizzou, Kentucky, Auburn and Vandy, and win their 3 winnable OOC games, they are a bowl game away from a 9-4 season, and if that happens, they have evidence they can give to recruits that they are "back". And that's what they are hoping for.

(Personally, I don't think they win more than 1 SEC game this year, but then, I'm not a Vol fan.)

usafvol writes:

in response to Lizardgrad89:

Nine.

But that doesn't matter anymore. UT fans realize they aren't going to beat Florida, Oregon, USC or Bama, but if they can sneak one out against Georgia, beat Mizzou, Kentucky, Auburn and Vandy, and win their 3 winnable OOC games, they are a bowl game away from a 9-4 season, and if that happens, they have evidence they can give to recruits that they are "back". And that's what they are hoping for.

(Personally, I don't think they win more than 1 SEC game this year, but then, I'm not a Vol fan.)

Just curious but what self satisfaction do you and the other trolls get by cruising other teams pages. Guess being a troll is kinda like being a pedafile huh; just can't help yourselves..

CoverOrange writes:

in response to 10seVol85_Part_Deux:

Not sure what you mean by UT's position in the 1970s, but right now, I would definitely take that. Only three current SEC teams won more games that decade, and since one of them (Arkansas) wasn't in the conference then, I guess UT must've been the third-best team in the conference, and LSU had only one more win and one less loss than we did. We were also tied for 18th in the country in total wins in the 1970s. Yeah. Right now I would definitely take that.

I think he was referring to the disco portion of the 1970s as opposed to the flower child portion.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

in response to bnakk#240693:

One look at the picture will explain the defensive improvement. Tackling by the balls is always an effective way to bring the runner down! (pun intended)

Hopefully that technique will create some turnovers. Hope Rajon Neal is OK, and didn't forget his cup.

BigBadVol writes:

in response to OrangePride:

Another great article by MS. He is clearly the best sports writer on the KNS staff. And he is right, what you see is NOT what you get when it comes to spring games. BUT, it does give all us football junkies a little something to jaw about over the summer. This offense will be a LOT better come opening day. Passing is highly dependent on timing, route running, and pass blocking. It won't be like last year with big over the top plays, but I think it will be well managed and we will play for high percentages. As for the D, I saw some very positive energy and some athleticism on that D line. No matter what they do, they will be way better than last year. No...it wasn't fantasyland on Saturday, but for a junkie like me, seeing that stadium full of orange was just what the doctor ordered! GO VOLS!!

Agree 100%. I love the attitude that CBJ and his staff bring. They preach family, team, and discipline. The players and recruits love it. It's just a matter of time before we return to prominence.

HooRay_Vol writes:

in response to usafvol:

Just curious but what self satisfaction do you and the other trolls get by cruising other teams pages. Guess being a troll is kinda like being a pedafile huh; just can't help yourselves..

It's OK. Delta Charlie and Lizard Grad are the same people. I wouldn't pay much attention to it. Kind of like a 3 year old screaming for attention........

OwensboroVol writes:

There use to be an old statement that 90% of playing defense is wanting to. I think for some reason our kids got down on themselves last fall and lost their spirit. IE They didn't want to play defense. Lets hope that the new staff is able to keep them up and determined. They may not be the best in the conference but just showing up every week and wanting to play defense can be a substantial improvement over last year!

romevol writes:

in response to bnakk#240693:

One look at the picture will explain the defensive improvement. Tackling by the balls is always an effective way to bring the runner down! (pun intended)

That's it! I'm boycotting Amy Burgess pictures. I'm serious - look at her portfolio. It is packed full of pictures of ball grabbing (not the kind we need) coaches jumping while sneezing, butt slapping and other ridiculousness. Do we really want that kind of stuff on the cover of SI?

Kidding of course.

Go VOLS!

tennezz writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

Will it be 9 or 10 in a row this year, I've lost count?

I don`t think we will win that many in a row this year...But we thank you for the vote of confidence!

Original_Witch_Doctor writes:

We are brewing a good football team. WD says it will take a year or two till we reach our peak... Incoming freshman and recruits committed for 2014 will make for a good dose of POWER T!
Bones Never Lie!

SewaneeVolFan writes:

At least on my ESPNU, a softball game took up the first 45 of my DVR recording, and my recording ended after the Cody Blanc touchdown. Outside of loving the atmosphere and enthusiasm, however (and marvelling at what a specimen McCullers looks like now), I really have to remind myself that Spring games REALLY don't tell us much, if anything, cause pretty much nothing I saw looked very good. This article encourages me, though.

AllforTenn writes:

in response to Johnny_Aint_No_Del_Shofner:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Why don't you grow up and get over your hatred?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to cheetah-vol:

I went to the game, and I thought the determined play by the defense was key. I went more out of curiosity than expectations. A lot of the defensive players were on that worse defense on VOL history last year. I think they wanted to show they can play better, especially since they're being coached. That said, I was kinda glad to see the offense struggle a bit. Maybe this will give them the same determination come August. But, absences from personnel aside, we didn't see all of the schemes, especially with the Tight End. And, as a fellow oldster, I can be patient as long as they just keep getting better as the season progresses instead of watching them do the same thing week after week with no success or improvement at all. The positive atmosphere and watching the coaches work with the players on Saturday is helping me to feel my patience will payoff.

Good post. It's pretty much a truism of spring football that the defense is ahead of the offense, but as bad as the Vol defense was last year, it's hard to say if that is overall good news for the Vols or not. Of course we hope the defense will benefit from the enthusiasm and better execution that comes from better coaching and we know the offense is essentially starting over at the skill positions. So we have to wonder if the previously bad defense is really better now, or if it just LOOKS better compared to a really BAD offense at this point. Oh well, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it until we get nearer to the start of the real thing. I'm still feeling better about the future of Vol football than I have in some time now.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to bnakk#240693:

One look at the picture will explain the defensive improvement. Tackling by the balls is always an effective way to bring the runner down! (pun intended)

Ouch! I didn't notice that until you pointed it out. Kinda hope they aren't teaching that over there! I would really hate to see tit-for-tat retaliation breaking out over something like that. Maybe it was just the camera angle? Again I say OUCH!

NYCApple writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

Will it be 9 or 10 in a row this year, I've lost count?

I just poured you a tall drink. Probably a bit "tart", and its definitely body temperature. Get lost tool.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features